WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- As the lone Division 1 high school hockey program in Western Massachusetts, Springfield Cathedral sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
A trip to last year’s Super 8 Tournament did wonders to build up this program’s stature but there were still many who walked away believing it was a fluke that they got there.
Making a concerted effort to prove the naysayers wrong, perhaps the Panthers did just that on Saturday after rallying to beat top-ranked Boston College High School, 3-2, in a non-conference battle held at the Olympia Ice Center.
In a contest that played out like a postseason affair, No. 3 Cathedral (8-0-1) scored a pair of third period goals and managed to withstand several late offensive assaults by the Eagles (6-1-2) to secure the triumph.
“This was obviously a huge game against the No. 1 ranked team in the state,” said Panthers coach Brian Foley, now in his ninth season there. “It was a chance for us to knock off a No. 1 and undefeated team. So obviously there was a lot of extra excitement taking place.”
Trailing 2-1 after 30 minutes, Cathedral came out for the final frame believing it had BC High in its cross hairs. A club that has relied so heavily on its defense throughout the first month of the regular season, it was now time for the offense to step it up and perform.
Just 3:02 into the final period sophomore Peter Crinella did just that. An initial shot laid buried between the pads of Eagle goaltender Peter Cronin (21 saves). However Crinella came in and was able to get enough of his stick on it to push it over the goal crease to tie matters at 2-2.
Moments later, BC High self-destructed a bit after being called for a couple of ill-timed penalties. Defenseman Alec Flynn was whistled for roughing. Moments later the Eagle bench was called for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Cathedral a golden 5-on-3 opportunity.
Failing to perform up to their standards on earlier power play chances, the Panthers weren’t about to let this opportunity slip through their grasp, especially with the outcome hanging in the balance.
A blast from freshman Johnny Leonard at the left face off circle deflected off the stick of senior Jack Williams, who positioned himself in front of the crease, and slipped by Cronin for the eventual game-winner coming at 4:23.
“We have a lot of guys who are poised with the puck,” Foley said. “I think our power play is a strength for us and it was nice to have that opportunity in the third period. Jack has been the key to our power play. We’ve been getting a lot of down low games because of him that we hadn’t gotten in previous years. Moving Jack [Williams] from defense to offense, he’s been great on rebounds and tipping the puck on shots from the point.”
For the remainder of the period, the Panthers defense, spear headed by senior Matt Foley, took over and kept the Eagles at bay.
“It goes in the column as a loss and we will get better from and learn from it,” BC High coach John Flaherty said. “We have another big game on Wednesday against Catholic Memorial so we need to come back and have an answer.”
It took nearly an entire first period before either team would get on the board. The Eagles were the first to do it with only 56 seconds remaining. Forward Patrick Kramer cut through the Springfield Cathedral defense along the left boards and beat Panther goaltender John Liquori (20 saves) with a hard wrist shot putting the Eagles on top, 1-0.
“The two times they scored on us we had two bad line changes," Matt Foley said. “We didn’t get the right guys on the ice during those two times. Even though we have started out the season pretty well, this was our first true big test of the season. All of us were very excited for it and fortunately we were able to come away victorious."
Springfield Cathedral answered at 3:39 of the second when Crinella, who earlier in the week made a verbal commitment to play at Holy Cross following graduation, pushed in a rebound to knot this contest at 1-1. But just 18 seconds later, the Eagles responded with Kramer, once again, leading the way. Standing just outside the Panther net, the sophomore lifted a back had over Liquori’s catching glove to send his club into the second intermission leading by a goal.
“Pat [Kramer] is playing well and has a hot stick,” said Flaherty. “He’s shooting the puck and making plays with it. He’s a big body and a big presence around the cage. He’s making good plays and good decision. He’s doing a great job for us.”